We speak to Hamed Ovaisi, Managing Director at SO Legal who gives us his views on LawTech trends and his interests in law and technology.
I founded SO Legal Limited in February 2016 in my dining room! We have grown from a firm of one to over 30 staff across 4 offices. As a fledgling firm I’ve had many roles form sourcing and putting furniture together the night before our first office was opened, dealing with carpentry with our next office reception and cleaning. As Head of Corporate and Litigation Services, I oversee a team of 15 in the commercial department, managing the day to day activities of the team as well as finding new clients, opportunities, partnerships and the strategic direction of the firm.
Why we are so interested in LawTech
Law Tech is without doubt the disruption the legal sector needed. For too long law at the small high street level has been a world of paper, confusion and mediocrity. People find access to legal professionals hard and unwelcoming. LawTech can bridge that gap and provide solutions to the ordinary person for their legal needs. A lot of the larger firms are looking at LawTech for internal purposes for example data migration, but the real impact will be on the largest number of legal professionals by number and that is the high street. It interests me not just because of the access it will give to new ways of dealing with client work but also the impact it will have on providing efficiency, cost effectiveness and allowing clients access to legal advice.
What’s my personal interest – lawyer by trade
I have a lot of interests. I can’t keep still! I love travelling, seeing new things. I’ve got into drawing recently to help with mindfulness and getting off the phone and emails. I am awful. I love history books, very interested in politics and world affairs. I also love football and am an avid Liverpool FC supporter. I travel Europe to watch them - the Champions League Final 2019 was a highlight of the year. I live in Eastbourne with some of the best natural scenery in the UK (the world if you ask me) so I like walking and relaxing.
How would some of the new technology we are seeing today have helped us in the early part of our career
That’s a difficult one for us as we had the opportunity to actually go paperless at the start and take that plunge. I would say document recognition software has come on leaps and bounds. That would have helped. Also human avoidance software assists in winning new clients in the younger age group. This is an area I’m focussed on.
What are the biggest trends in LawTech and how will they impact the industry?
There’s many developments and advances in LawTech but for us at SO Legal – being a client-centred law firm is key. Client experience is critical to the delivery of 21st Century legal services.
Communicating with clients throughout each transaction – whether it’s a relatively simple residential property matter or a complex corporate matter is so important. Using technology to understand client needs, how and when they want to be communicated with is helping us to close the gap between what we think clients want and what they actually want.
Tech that helps firms streamline communication processes and deliver outstanding client experience will continue to grow and have impact across the legal sector.
Coupled with the pressures to deliver high client service is getting the balance between human versus technological interaction. With the continuing rise in the use of AI and chatbots across the sector, law firms need to work through when, and when not to, use technology (chatbots).
The implementation of GDPR in 2018 has brought privacy and data protection to the forefront. With the introduction of more and more tech processes and interactions in the sector, firms will have to take great care around privacy, handling data and compliance when it comes to handling and protecting personal and sensitive information.
What kind of LawTech excites us the most?
Human avoidance software for winning new clients is really interesting. I’ve been developing a plug-in for law firms like us to deal with 12 legal areas that account for 80% of our enquiries so staff don’t deal with enquiries at all. 60% of all new clients use the first firm / lawyer that gives them an estimate. 20% the second. It’s imperative to get in there first. For example, the plug-in we have developed goes through a commercial lease enquiry for a high street shop and gives the client an immediate estimate generated from their answers as well as advising the appropriate fee earner. We estimate the embracing this tech will save 2 hours per week per fee earner in dealing with new enquiries.
How we have been working with any of the LawTech businesses in the Eagle Lab
We have used fellow LawTech residents as a sounding board and have gained insight and feedback from many of them. As a multi-site firm, we’ve been able to take what we’ve learned from other Eagle Lab partners and implement across our offices in Sussex.
What impact will LawTech have on the law firm of the future?
Any LawTech predictions – will we need real lawyers in the future
LawTech will transform the legal profession into having fewer lawyers and more human interactions in a perverse way. The humans will deal with each other in a more nuanced and personal level. The tech will grind the work with some minimal human input. Lawyers will be the developers of the future for this tech.